Sage Barista Pro Review
Coffee aficionado Louise Woffindin examines just how good this espresso maker is in our full Sage Barista Pro review. Find out if you really need this coffee maker in your life below…
The Sage Barista Pro is a high-end espresso machine that promises to give you the opportunity to “experience third-wave speciality coffee at home”.
I know what you’re thinking – what is “third-wave speciality coffee”, right? Well, to put it simply, third-wave coffee is basically the sort of coffee that we have been buying in coffee shops and cafés for the last 20 years or so. We are all becoming coffee connoisseurs – we care about where our coffee is from, the different flavours and the unique characteristics of different coffee. This is third-wave speciality coffee – and now we can make it in our own homes.
Sage is a brand that knows all about our love for coffee. Part of the Australian company Breville, they have been producing fantastic coffee machines since their launch in 2013. There is a strong focus on design and quality with most of what they do, which goes some way to explaining why we were quite excited by the release of the Sage Barista Pro.
In this article, we are going to be putting this machine to the test. First, we will be taking a look at what the Sage Barista Pro can offer in terms of specifications, before walking you through what it is like to use. We will then conduct the all-important taste test, before looking at who the Barista Pro is aimed at and delivering our verdict.
The purpose of this article is to help you decide whether the Sage Barista Pro is the right machine for you – let’s get started.
Sage Barista Pro Specs & Features
One feature of an espresso machine, or any coffee machine for that matter, that often gets overlooked is the aesthetics. While it may make no difference to the end product – the coffee you drink – you should remember that this is something that will be out on display in your kitchen permanently – what it looks like does matter.
It is an area that Sage generally excels in, and the Barista Pro is another fine-looking machine for their coffee range. The aspect that jumps out at you immediately is the finish – a clean, clear and crisp stainless steel just exudes style and sophistication, but also strength and durability.
This is probably a good place to mention the size as well – measuring 40.6 x 35.4 x 40.6 cm, it is a decent size, but without being overwhelmingly big – it also has a reassuring amount of heft to it – weighing 9 kilograms. You just get the impression that this is a really sturdy piece of kit that won’t let you down.
The user interface also adds to the feeling of confidence and style at first glance. It is an understated digital display, but one that is clear and uncomplicated – you get the feeling that it is going to be easy to use, but also highly functional. Then you have the integrated grinder – a feature that only the best espresso machines have, and one that you’ll want to show off – but it is again understated. This gives the aura of a machine that is so good it doesn’t need to shout about it.
Speaking of the grinder, it is a great place to start our tour of the features. The Sage Barista Pro is fitted with a conical burr grinder with 30 different grind settings – which is more than you’ll probably ever use. It is all operated with one touch, and the dose size is fully automatic, so you should always get the exact amount of coffee that you require, between 19-22g depending on how strong you like your coffee. The grind size and dose amount are both controlled by the dials on the user interface on the front of the machine.
While we are talking about the user interface, from there you can also control whether you make one shot or two shots of espresso – or you can even set it to manual if you want complete control over how much coffee you produce. With just one dial and three buttons, the user controls are designed to be simple to use and intuitive – the idea being that it should not take a long time to work out how to use the Barista Pro.
When you grind your coffee, it will be automatically dispensed into the 54mm stainless steel portafilter. This is fitted with dual and single-wall filters – although in truth you only really need a single-wall filter. Double-walled filters are only usually needed when you have pre-ground coffee. As the Barista Pro has an integrated burr grinder, you should find that the single wall filter is absolutely perfect for the job.
As we have come to expect with our domestic coffee machines, there is a very quick heat-up time with the Barista Pro. The ThermoJet heating system takes just 3 seconds to reach the required temperature to make an espresso, and can instantly alternate between the optimum brewing temperature and the optimum steam temperature.
This machine also uses the optimum amount of pressure to pull your espresso. It starts off with a low-pressure ‘pre-infusion’ stage, which helps the water to integrate with as much coffee as possible. The pressure then builds up to a high pressure – 9 bar – to force the water through the coffee grounds. The theory is that this is the best method for extracting all of the flavours out of your coffee.
Next up, is the milk frother. The steam is created at 130°C – the ideal temperature for creating microfoam. The steam wand itself is manually operated, so you have full control over the texture and temperature of your milk – ideal for experimenting and finessing your barista skills. The wand will produce thousands of tiny bubbles for you to bring out the flavour of your milk.
Included in the box when you buy the Sage Barista Pro is:
- 54mm portafilter
- Single & dual wall (1 and 2 Cup) filter baskets
- 480ml Stainless steel milk jug
- Razor precision dose trimming tool
- Cleaning kit
- Water filter
All of these items have a genuine use – they are not just cheap little gimmicks. The precision dose tool is particularly useful and looks great too. It really does add to the feeling that you are buying a quality machine.
What It’s Like To Use The Sage Barista Pro
Having all of the features, specifications and add-ons are great but what really matters is the performance, right? It is all very well having all this on paper, but what is the Sage Barista Pro like to use? This is something that you will most likely be using every day, maybe a few times a day if you are anything like me.
I always feel like the best way to give you an idea of what it is like to use a coffee machine is to walk you through the process, step-by-step. That way you can get a clear picture of how easy, or difficult, it will be to make your coffee every morning. So what do you fancy? Let’s make a cappuccino together.
We’ll start by checking the water tank at the back of the machine. Now, this has a capacity for 2 litres of water, which is pretty big. You won’t need to fill it up very often, but we do advise against leaving water in there for too long – fresh is always best. It is very easy to pour some water into the tank, though, so this is not a big issue.
Next, it is time to check that you have enough coffee loaded in the grinder, which is located handily on the top of the machine. This is an airtight container, so it won’t matter if you have coffee beans left in there – they won’t lose any of that freshness which is so important in a great-tasting coffee. To load more coffee into the burr grinder, simply take off the lid and pour in your beans.
Next, we need to fire up the machine by pressing the button on the front. Depending on how quick you are at reading, if you pressed the button at the start of this sentence, there is a good chance that the machine is fully heated up and ready to go by now. That’s how quick the ThermoJet system is.
By turning the dial just under the LCD screen, you can alter the size of your grain. As a general rule, espressos are best when you use a fine grain size, but the great thing here is that you can experiment. You may find that some coffees, perhaps a more bitter coffee, work best with a slightly larger grain than other, more mellow, coffees. Have a play.
You can also select how big a dose of coffee you would like, between 19-22g. Obviously, the bigger the dose, the stronger the coffee will taste. When you are happy, hit the button and your coffee will be ground directly into the portafilter. When it is done, simply tamp it down, and scrape the top with the Razor tool provided in the box.
Next up, you can select which sized drink you would like in terms of single or double espresso, and how big each shot is. You can manually programme it to make each shot to exactly the volume that you require – another source of endless experimentation!
When you are happy with your selections, simply place a cup or glass (we think coffee always looks fantastic in a proper coffee glass) under the filter and press the button to kick it all into life. The extraction process will begin. The machine is fitted with a digital temperature control, which will ensure that the water is at the optimum temperature throughout the entire extraction process. This is absolutely vital in ensuring the coffee is extracted correctly, but without burning your coffee and leaving it with an unnaturally bitter flavour.
As your coffee is being extracted, it is time to focus on the milk. For a normal cappuccino, you will want around 85ml of milk (but again you can adjust this to fit your taste). Pour this into your stainless steel milk jug that has been provided.
Now as there is only a single boiler in the Sage Barista Pro, you can’t brew coffee and use the milk wand at the same time. The good news is, though, that you don’t have to wait between the two functions as you do with many other machines. The steam wand is heated sufficiently almost instantly, so as soon as you switch the function over to steam, you are good to go.
This next step is the most complex of the entire coffee-making process, only because creating the perfect milk for your drink will require a fair amount of skill. But this can’t come as a surprise – the machine is called the Barista Pro! You are required to have some barista skills in order to operate it…
Having said that, this is also the most fun aspect of the process. This is where you can really put your stamp on your drink, and truly make it exactly how you like it. There are so many videos available on the internet to help you to learn how to froth your milk, that all you really need is the desire to learn.
You can also create some fantastic latte art. Again, there is lots of help available to you if you would like to master this skill, and I can wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to learn. It’s a great feeling to present a guest with a truly café-quality coffee with a beautiful pattern.
Once you have your milk to the required density and temperature (55–65°C for a cappuccino), you can simply add your milk to your coffee, perfecting your artistic skills, and voila! Your drink is made.
Always wipe down your steam wand after use, and in terms of a ‘bigger’ clean, the cleaning kit provided is very intuitive and self-explanatory.
Sage Barista Pro Taste Test
One of the biggest factors in the taste of coffee is how fresh it is. We would always recommend using fresh water, fresh milk and, most importantly, fresh coffee. That is why grinders are so important – that way you get the freshest possible coffee.
So having an integrated coffee grinder gives a machine a huge advantage when it comes to great-tasting coffee, and the Sage Barista Pro does not disappoint. The coffee that you get is ground to perfection (providing you use the correct settings), and with a little bit of practice, the milk is also fantastic.
You have everything you need to create fantastic tasting, and looking, coffee with the Sage Barista Pro.
Who Should Buy The Sage Barista Pro?
We are fully aware that some people will be slightly put off by the Sage Barista Pro, just because of the requirement to froth your own milk. Some people will just want to press a button and have their coffee delivered to them, and I fully understand that mindset.
The Sage Barista Pro is not for them. It is for people that want to play their part in making fantastic coffees, that want to develop their skills as a barista and that want to dazzle their guests with immaculately presented drinks.
That is who this espresso machine is aimed at, and it is a market that is growing all the time. Machines like this one are making it more and more possible to create fantastic ‘barista style’ drinks in our own homes, and that is something to be celebrated.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but we are really big fans of the Sage Barista Pro. It offers you the opportunity to be your own barista, with plenty of scope for experimenting and perfecting your skills – that is something that we are big fans of.
As we mentioned above, this won’t be for everyone. There are many out there that just want great coffee with very little input from them, and we now live in a world where that is a viable option with so many automatic machines – particularly pod coffee machines. For those people, the Sage Barista Pro will just seem like a lot of hard work.
For the rest of us though, the people that really take coffee seriously and see it more as a hobby than a beverage, the Sage Barista Pro is a fantastic option. Built with style, but not forgetting functionality, this will make a great addition to your kitchen. You can hone your skill, and experiment with different doses, grain sizes and milk frothing techniques to make your perfect coffee.
As you have probably guessed, this machine is not a cheap one. It is priced at a point where it is only a serious option for people that are going to get a lot of use out of it – it simply wouldn’t be worth the investment if you only tend to drink coffee a couple of times a week.
If you are keen to learn barista skills, and you care deeply about coffee, then the Sage Barista Pro could be the perfect machine for you.